What do you mean “Add Value?” Either you’re valuable or you’re not.

The question of value comes up often in business and I believe it creates much confusion because it is usually put in terms of the phrase “value add.”

What exactly does “value add” mean?  Typically the answer to that makes reference, in one way or another, to doing something extra, and while I would never say that’s a bad idea, I don’t think that gets to the crux of value.  I think understanding value means understanding what it is to be valuable.

Think about it, what makes something valuable to you?  What makes a thing or a person so important that you would miss it or them if they were gone?  I believe it is a collection of attributes that makes that thing or person irreplaceable or missed if gone. So, unlike many business experts, I’m not a big supporter of “value add,” I am, however, a proponent of being valuable from the start. In other words, you are either valuable to people or you are not, it’s not something you add except where you have a unique opportunity to do something special.  So the real question is, what is valuable to people and how can your business become valuable (i.e. missed if it was gone)?

In my experience, there are three reasons people value a business:

  • Knowledge: Employees know things customers do not.
  • Skill: Employees can do things customers cannot do.
  • Product: The business has things (products and services) customers do not have.

What exactly does this mean to you?  It means asking some questions of yourself and your business and finding answers in order to become valuable and ultimately irreplaceable.

  • What knowledge do you and your employees have that the customer does not? What unique experience, creative idea, or knowledge is possessed that can save the customer time and effort as well as provide them with the information necessary to make good decisions?
  • What skills do you and your employees have that the customer does not? What are things you and your employees do each day that customers do not know how to do and thus need someone to do in order to be successful?
  • What products or services does your business have that customers don’t?  What is it you have that customers need to solve their problems?

Equipped with this understanding of what makes you valuable to customers, you must answer a critical question, how will you and your employees consistently demonstrate the unique knowledge, skill, and products or services on offer?  If you want your business to be seen as valuable and ultimately irreplaceable by your customers, this must be answered by every team member that is part of your team or business and demonstrated with every customer in every interaction.  While adding some special extras is nice, the unique knowledge, skill, and product or service you offer over and over are what make customers shudder at the thought of you fading away.

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